6 High-Paying Food and Beverage Jobs

Job Search Tips / April 3, 2018

Behind the lavish buffets and alluring pool bars on-site at hotels and resort properties, there is a hierarchy of food and beverage (F&B) staff from restaurant management to sous chefs and bartenders to sommeliers aiming to serve, please and earn a living.

For those in high-income roles in this field, the career paths may vary, but rising to the top of such disciplines takes specific skills, experience, and passion. Here’s a sampling of several six-figure jobs in this core segment of the hospitality industry:

1. Food and Beverage Director

Within the large volume, high quality (4-5 star) restaurants, whether free-standing or inside hotels, working for the hotel General Manager, F&B directors within a $20-$50 million dollar operation often manage between 100-200 employees and have a staff of fifteen to thirty managers reporting directly to him or her, according to Michael “Doc” Terry, an associate instructor at Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida. “Staff includes dining room manager, beverage manager, executive chef, purchaser, and many times a banquet director,” he says.

Duties can include setting and following budgets, supervising staff, meeting with suppliers, and staying abreast of culinary trends. For businesses that sell alcoholic beverages, selecting and sourcing wine can be a major part of this job.

To reach this post, one must have incredible people and communication skills, financial acumen, and marketing knowledge, says Terry. Highly preferred credentials include a hospitality or restaurant management degree, 8-15 years in a dining room, and kitchen and beverage management, he adds. Salaries range between $100-$250K, depending upon size and quality of outlet.

“It’s a passion, and not a 9-5,” says Terry. “Decide if you love the business and the people and working with all types of guests and employees. It’s not routine and every day is crazy different and fast-paced. It’s rewarding in developing employees and managers, and perhaps becoming a partner with the owners or becoming an owner yourself.”

2. Regional Operations Manager

Presiding over a hotel’s four-star restaurant or bar, “These are primarily business heads who manage 10-12 restaurant general managers. It takes a great deal of emotional intelligence (EQ) to supervise without micro-managing,” says Terry. Salaries can range between $200-$500K with high-quality, multiple operations, according to the instructor.

“You are going to make good money, as you’re already dealing with sharp, GMs who make six figures a year. You need personal and conceptual skills – you’re really a coach, and a detective who is doing forensics on these 10-12 GMs,” says Terry.  “If you have an undergraduate hospitality degree and an MBA, it’s ideal. It’s less financial skills, as it is psychological, communicative, leadership development and strategic management.”

3. Owner, Freestanding Hotel/Restaurant/Bar

Operating under a management contract for such an entity is becoming a goal for many F&B students, says Terry.

“They frequently aspire to be a small business owner. However, this position is a longer-term goal for most, as it’s recommended to work for an F&B company to learn the ropes first, before launching out into your own business. You must have incredible people skills, communication skills, financial acumen, and marketing knowledge. It’s also important to have social and community skills to relate to inside and outside stakeholders such as bankers, supplies, social media professionals, and more,” he says.

To achieve this professional objective, “You need to know your product and have kitchen skills. The two biggest costs in a restaurant are labor and product, so you need to know your way around the kitchen – the heart of the house and the head of the house,” he says. The guest-centric approach to service is key, he adds.

“It’s all about brand – and not just your logo. It’s about promising the public you’re going to do something and then doing it. Create brand consistency and people will pay – they will trust you. Revenue maximization is important as well, he says. Knowing how much money you can get per guest, per cover – if you understand this, guest-ology, the rest falls into place.

4. Executive Chef

Often, these folks earn as much or more than a general manager, says Terry. “The hours are more demanding though, as you will be on the job well into the evening, weekends and holidays.”

In this creative artisan type job, you are both a business person and someone who is creating a brand, “The work is only for the passionate and you must know your numbers (product and labor costs, percentages, and pricing),” he says.

Climbing to the high-ranking Executive Chef spot requires not only proven expertise as a chef, cook, or catering manager but managerial skills, too, as you will likely interview, hire, train, lead and supervise a team of chefs, sous chefs, line cooks and kitchen workers in this role. Duties like preparing menus, setting prices, and, reviewing food and beverage purchases, are a key part of this job, as are quality assurance and financial management. Credentials such as culinary arts diplomas, and undergraduate degrees are advantageous.

5. Director of Culinary Operations

At Hyatt Hotels Corporation, director of culinary positions (such as Martin Pffeferkorn, who maintains this role for Hyatt Americas) are earned through experience, particularly in leadership, says Colleen Kareti, Vice President of Operations, Americas.  For Martin, “He came to the United States from Austria, not speaking a word of English. He began his career in Michigan and joined Hyatt as a restaurant sous chef in Mexico, working his way up. During his last position as executive chef for Hyatt Atlanta, he led a team of 60 – supporting purchasing, cleanliness and maintenance, banquet operations, and restaurant operations as well. We picked him up for our corporate team,” says Kareti.

To be groomed for such a role, the average tenure in leadership rank is twenty years, says Kareti, however Pfefferkorn had amassed fourteen.

Corporate management training programs, through which college graduates are hired right out of school, are aimed to expose students to all aspects of F&B and to help them get to the general management level, which is highly desirable, says Kareti.

Another way to raise your profile as you climb the ranks is through cooking challenges and competitions, organized by employers.

Hyatt’s Good Taste Series is a perfect example. Now in its fifth year, the global culinary competition celebrates Hyatt’s culinary talent and global cuisine. It allows Hyatt Chefs from around the world to showcase their skills in friendly competitions which are held at regional and global levels.

“We have professional judges, who are people in the industry,” says Kareti. “The winner receives four weeks of paid vacation to the destination of their choice and an extra week to explore the world. It is a way to make talent more visible to us,” she says.

6. Catering Sales

If you’re a people person and know how to sell, this job path could be a fit. In this role, professionals are expected to develop a hotel or hospitality company’s client lists through outreach, prospecting, using referrals, and relationship building at industry and networking events.

At a four-star restaurant that makes $.50 cents on the dollar for beverage, there are people who book a lot of group business and private parties for private rooms, where alcohol will be flowing. “These people can make a lot of money,” says Terry, “Between $100,000-$150,000 depending on how large the restaurant is and its location. They can earn their salary plus an incentive for every dollar they bring in.”

The bigger money is in convention services and catering sales for hotels.

“These people handle groups from the moment they arrive on-premises, through check-in, breakfast, lunch, dinner, awards ceremonies, meetings, pool functions, and more,” says Terry. “If the conference brings in $2 million, you can make two or three percent on that, above the already great salary you had. You can make more than the general manager or second to the general manager, says Terry.

However, “You’re working, and working and working,” he says. “You may literally get a room and move into the hotel to be accessible to meet with the meeting planner, and the engineering department to ensure that the audio-visual equipment is working. You’ll connect with the security department, front desk, and controller to make sure money is collected, and stay incredibly close with the chef. It can be very lucrative.” To excel in this area, “Sales, sales and more sales experience is desired,” says Terry.  “You will also have worked a few functions like front desk and F&B ideally.” Again, a hospitality undergraduate degree, combined with an MBA is a winning combination of educational experience, he says.